Pruitt says his EPA will work with the states

Pruitt says his EPA will work with the states
© Greg Nash

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told a Senate committee on Wednesday that states should play a bigger role in environmental regulation. 

“I believe the role of the regulator is to make things regular,” Scott Pruitt said early in his confirmation hearing. 

“This public participation, cooperative federalism, the rule of law being the focus of how we do things at the EPA is center to restoring confidence in the EPA.”

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The main theme of Pruitt’s opening statement — that the EPA should work with states to protect clean air and water — was expected from Trump’s pick to be the nation’s top environmental regulator. 

Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, is a frequent foe of President Obama's EPA. He has argued in legal filings that it overused its power as Obama increasingly focused on climate change regulations. Like most Republicans, he argued Wednesday that EPA rules have hurt jobs around the country.

“Environmental regulations should not occur in an economic vacuum. We can simultaneously pursue the mutual goals of environmental protection and economic growth,” he wrote in the opening statement he filed with the committee. 

“But that can only happen if the EPA listens — listens to the views of all interested stakeholders, including the states, so that it can determine how to realize its missions while considering true pragmatic impacts of its decisions on jobs, communities and most importantly families.”  

Republicans support Pruitt’s approach, with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThis week: GOP seeks to advance tax overhaul Dissent is democratic: Stop calling McCain, Corker, Flake RINOs The farm bill presents a chance to lighten the regulatory burden of farmers MORE (R-Wyo.) saying recent EPA work has “created broad and legally questionable new regulations which have undermined the American people’s faith in the agency.”

“Far from being an enemy of the environment, Scott Pruitt has proven to be an expert at balancing economic growth with environment stewardship,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeMcCain backs Pentagon nominee despite concerns over defense industry ties GOP senators ask Trump for meeting on biofuels mandate Trump feuds endangering tax reform MORE (R-Okla.), the former chairman of the committee, said, previewing Democratic arguments against Pruitt. 

Democrats and environmentalists have questioned Pruitt’s approach, worrying that a frequent foe of the EPA will, instead, gut the agency in the name of turning power over to the states. 

They are likely to hammer Pruitt on the proper role of the EPA during Wednesday’s hearing. 

“Too much of what I’ve seen of record on the environment, his views about the role of EPA, are troubling and, in some cases, deeply troubling,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate confirms top air regulator at EPA Senate panel delays vote on Trump’s Homeland Security pick Overnight Energy: Senators grill Trump environmental pick | EPA air nominee heads to Senate floor | Feds subpoena ex-Trump adviser over biofuels push MORE (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, said, quoting a former Republican EPA administrator who called Pruitt “disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.” 

“Today is your opportunity to show that she’s gotten it wrong,” Carper said. “To be honest with you, coming to this hearing today, I fear that she’s gotten it right.”